Uganda is losing tourists because of severe poaching, for which minister Ephraim Kamuntu wants everyone to fight.
Kamuntu, the Tourism minister, who was addressing journalists ahead of celebrations to mark Global Wildlife Day, due March 3 at Boma grounds in Arua District, said the illegal practice is killing the tourism, yet it has been growing.
“Ugandans should know that conservation of wildlife is a heritage to us. Every time you poach you have undermined the heritage of your country. Therefore conservation for us is not a choice. It is mandatory and a question of survival,” he said at Uganda Media Centre.
According to Kamuntu, the Uganda Wildlife Bill, which is before Parliament is going to propose harsh punishments for those who encroach on wildlife.
Poaching in Uganda and neighboring countries has affected mainly elephants, rhinos, kobs, and pangolins among others.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, UWA, elephants are generally killed not for meat but for their tusks made of ivory that is used in making expensive jewelry.
Last week, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) intercepted a truck carrying three containers with 750 pieces of ivory and thousands of pangolin scales.
Two Vietnamese were arrested and released on Thursday, something Kamuntu blamed on weakness of the laws which allow poachers to go almost unpunished compared to the damage caused by them.
“We need strict laws and harmonious cooperation with communities near these areas I believe strongly and frankly that the first line of defense for wildlife is community. Areas surrounding them and this come be true when the communities embrace this and work harmonious with us,”
According to reports from UWA, poaching in Uganda is a well-coordinated and organised crime which involves rich people that invest in lots of monies and guns. So fighting this vice will require concerted efforts from the local communities, government, all security agencies and law enforcement agencies such as UWA, police, Interpol, army, Judiciary and URA’s Customs to break down the international racket
“As we celebrate this day, I appeal to the general public to work closely responsible authorities such as UWA and police to address and combat this issue of wildlife crime,” added Kamuntu.